Even Livni Is No Longer a Beacon of Light

The nine months that Bennett'gave' Livni have passed, never to return. This unwanted pregnancy produced nothing, but showed that Livni was the only beacon on a barren coast full of hatred.

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Tzipi Livni. Credit: AP

I've never voted for Tzipi Livni — not because I consider her an unworthy stateswoman, but because I have different priorities, which include a broader worldview. But today, when I look at Israel’s government, the justice minister seems like a beacon facing a stormy sea, illuminating the darkness despite the pounding waves.

Livni took on a mission impossible: to push for a peace agreement with the Palestinians and perhaps with others in the Arab world. Her appointment was perceived as a brilliant PR maneuver by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. A volunteer had been found for him to wipe away the stains on Israel’s face that could be seen around the world.

It was a problematic appointment from the start because Livni wanted to promote a peace deal — a two-state solution based on agreed borders — while the people who sent her did not want a peace deal. They only wanted a process, and not even a peace process. From their point of view, Livni was in charge of creating movement, a slight murmur, just so the bog would show some signs of life.

True, the prime minister probably gave Livni some support so she could conduct the process. But he did so secretly, in private conversations, lest Likud MK Zeev Elkin and those of his ilk found out.

The ministers saw Livni meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat — and they shrugged their shoulders. They told journalists she only represented herself. This is how Livni conducts negotiations on fateful issues for Israel’s existence — with the prime minister’s tacit support amid open prayers by most ministers that she will fail.

From the outset, Habayit Hayehudi has spearheaded the attack on Livni. To me, this party is a curiosity. Clearly it enjoys some public support, but it conducts itself as if it were a joke. Its leader, Naftali Bennett, learned PR from his work with Netanyahu, but Netanyahu is trying to be a statesman – a spokesman for vague hope and massive fear-mongering.

Bennett, in comparison, is a sorry imitation. Housing Minister Uri Ariel expresses – very crudely – faith in the justness of the settlers’ path. As for Bennett, he is simply in love with himself. He appears delusional on foreign television broadcasts, trying to disguise himself as a realistic statesman — one who does not hesitate to talk about breaking up the government.

Talk of the possibility of a peace agreement makes Habayit Hayehudi leaders’ blood boil. They regard Livni as trying to break up the alliance of the rejectionists – Bennett, Ariel, Elkin and Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon. And so, in an angry discussion between Livni and Habayit Hayehudi’s leaders, Bennett and his friends said they had “given” her nine months without getting in her way, yet she dared accuse them of conspiring to torpedo the process.

They say this and hide their schadenfreude-filled smile. From the very start they worked against the negotiations. They attacked Kerry, hinting that he was tainted by anti-Semitism. They portrayed Livni as delusional and disconnected. They announced new construction contracts in the territories and the transfer of funds to the settlements. Netanyahu, who did not want a prisoner release but rather moderate construction in the territories, was frightened at the scale of the opposition and retreated.

The nine months that Bennett and Ariel “gave” Livni have passed, never to return. This unwanted pregnancy produced nothing, although it did change something. It showed that Livni was the only beacon on a barren coast full of hatred. But even the person at the top of the lighthouse has to realize that after nine months she must turn off the beacon and not be the hostage of a rejectionist government.

Naftali Bennett. Peace makes his blood boil. Credit: Emil Salman